If you were to compare Amazon to any other online marketplace, like eBay, what would make it stand out? Convenience and efficiency with Amazon Prime are critical differentiators, and so is trust. Buyers trust Amazon to ensure quality in the products and transactions, and the positive experience they have keeps them coming back for more. But how does Amazon maintain and ensure its quality control?
One way is by restricting sellers for certain gated categories. This means that, for certain types of goods, a seller is not able to simply join Amazon and start selling right away. They must first get approval sometimes by using an Amazon ungating service which would help in providing some verifiable documentation.
This article covers which categories are “gated” and the process to get approved.
Gated Categories that Require Amazon’s Approval
Amazon is constantly making updates to their platform and, as such, will periodically update the categories, subcategories, and rules for restricted products. Many sellers either don’t understand the process for getting approval, or they simply don’t want to make the effort. Because of this, many restricted categories actually have less competition for sellers!
To verify quality and authenticity in their marketplace, Amazon places certain requirements in most categories relating to the condition of products. In the bold rows below, they go one step further by restricting access to these “gated categories” (and sometimes sub-categories therein):
|Category||Noted Approvals or Restrictions|
|Amazon Device Accessories||Requirements for refurbished only|
|Amazon Kindle||Requirements for refurbished only|
|Automotive & Powersports||Approval required; professional sellers only|
|Baby Products (Excluding Apparel)||Potential approval for holiday selling|
|Beauty||New only (no used)|
|Books||Requires all media items shipped within two business days|
|Business Products (B2B)||Professional sellers only|
|Camera & Photo||Requirements for refurbished only|
|Cell Phones||Not gated, but must meet requirements|
|Clothing & Accessories||New only. Must meet category requirements|
|Collectibles (Coins, Sports)||Approval required; professional sellers only|
|Electronics (Accessories)||Requirements for refurbished and certain products|
|Fashion Jewelry||Professional sellers only|
|Fine Jewelry||Approval required; professional sellers only|
|Grocery & Gourmet Food||Approval required; new only; professional sellers only|
|Health & Personal Care||New only|
|Historical & Advertising Collectible||Not currently accepting new sellers|
|Home & Garden||Requirements for refurbished only|
|Industrial & Scientific||Approval required; professional sellers only|
|Luggage & Travel Accessories||Professional sellers only|
|Music||Not currently accepting new sellers|
|Musical Instruments||Requirements for refurbished only|
|Office Products||Requirements for refurbished only|
|Outdoors||Requirements for refurbished only|
|Professional Services||Approval required; service professionals only|
|Shoes, Handbags, Sunglasses||Professional sellers only|
|Software & Computer Games||May be required for certain products|
|Sports||Requirements for refurbished only|
|Tools & Home Improvement||Requirements for refurbished only|
|Toys & Games||Potential approval for holiday selling|
|Video, DVD, & Blu-Ray||Approval required; professional sellers only|
|Video Games & Consoles||Requirements for refurbished only|
|Watches||Approval required; professional sellers only|
Accurate as of February 2020. For full list and links to requirements, visit Amazon Ungating Services.
Note again that within some gated categories (and even some ungated ones) there are also restrictions based on product condition. You cannot sell used items in baby products, beauty, clothing, grocery, health & personal care, jewelry, shoes, handbags, sunglasses, toys & games, or watches.
Each category has slightly different regulations and instructions for gaining permission to sell. We’ll focus primarily on automotive and toys.
Steps to Activate an Amazon Gated Category
In broad terms, there are a few general steps you’ll need to take before even considering the specifics of one category v. another:
- Ensure you are using Amazon’s Professional Selling Plan. This is the foremost indicator to Amazon that you are a serious seller. Without it, the whole conversation of restricted categories is a non-starter.
- Make sure the product you want to sell is in your inventory. When you search for it, you’ll see a link that says “Listing Limitations May Apply.” This will take you to a page where you can request approval. Click when ready.
- Complete the application. The instructions are straightforward, but each category will be slightly different. Be prepared with invoices, product images, and any other specific verifications you’ll need to complete.
This category includes any products that are used with motor vehicles and power sports, which means quality can have a direct impact on safety. Getting approval is straightforward:
- Amazon cannot be your sole storefront; you must have a business website first.
- Product images must be compliant to Amazon policies. They must be accurate and able to be reviewed on an independent website.
- Properly use UPC codes for all product listings.
- If selling fitment-specific products, review the document called “Automotive & Powersports Part Finder and Fitment Data Page.”
For most sellers in this category, these steps are mere formalities, as they are likely part of an established business already.
Toys & Games (Holiday Requirements)
This category is only restricted seasonally, as Amazon needs to ensure top quality from sellers during the busy holiday buying season. This means that sellers of toys & games can enter the market at any time without restriction, but must meet certain performance goals and criteria before Q4 to be eligible for holiday selling:
- Amazon wants to ensure you are not just providing quality goods, but that you can keep up with demand. Therefore, three specific rates must be adhered to:
- Order defect rates must be below 1%
- Pre-fulfillment cancel rates must be below 1.75%
- Late shipment rates must be below 4%
- Furthermore, sellers must have shipped a certain number of products leading up to the holidays, assuring Amazon that volume and inventory won’t be an issue. In 2019, for example, approval to sell toys in Q4 required a minimum of 25 items sold in the 90 days prior to October 15. Only stores that had first started selling on Amazon prior to September were permitted as well.
Amazon makes changes and tweaks to the holiday requirements each year, so keep an eye out for their email update, which usually comes around August or September. Here is the official verbiage from Amazon for 2020 related to Holiday Selling Requirements in Toys & Games which are applicable from November 2, 2020 through January 3, 2021.
Other Gated Categories & General Tips
Those two categories are the most common we see questions about from sellers, but remember each category has its own requirements. Some are minimal and require only the application (such as Sexual Wellness). These approvals are so simple they are almost automatic. Other categories may require additional verifications, like supplier invoices and can be quite cumbersome.
Utilizing Supplier Invoices
In some cases, you may be seeking approval in a category with a supplier. Amazon will typically ask for invoices to verify and provide approval, so it is important for you to use recent invoices for purchases of products from the manufacturer or manufacturer’s authorized distribution house.
Amazon will also typically request the official invoice that comes within the box — not a printed copy from your email records. To submit, a snapshot of the official invoice with your phone camera is fine. The invoice must be post-shipped, not pro forma.
Amazon works hard to proactively provide guidelines and resources but many Amazon sellers still struggle or lack the ability to seek approval in gated categories.
If you still have questions about navigating specific categories, talk with an Amazon consultant at Toucan. Your business may be missing out on sales if you delay or don’t ever seek approval.